P&O ferries Dubai-based owner begs for £150m bailout (as it plans to give investors £270m)
The owner of P&O Ferries is pleading with the Government for a £150million bailout – as it prepares to hand shareholders nearly £270million.
Dubai-based DP World says P&O, which started running ferry services in the UK in the late 1960s, needs the emergency cash to avoid collapse.
Travel restrictions have resulted in a collapse in passengers on its routes, which include Dover to Calais, Hull to Rotterdam and Liverpool to Dublin.
Dubai-based DP World says P&O, which started running ferry services in the UK in the late 1960s, needs £270m to avoid collapse
P&O also transports 15 per cent of all goods in and out of the UK.
A number of ships have now been taken out of service and 1,400 P&O staff have been furloughed using a taxpayer-funded scheme.
But critics said the firm should instead stop ‘wasting’ money on investor payouts and slammed its millionaire bosses.
DP World boss Sultan Ahmed bin Sulayem, who was paid £5.4million last year, has dismissed suggestions of scrapping the dividend and branded the UK government’s response to the pandemic ‘slow’ after pleas for money received no immediate reply.
But Luke Hildyard, director of the High Pay Centre, said: ‘Mega-wealthy individuals and huge corporations don’t seem to understand that we need the Government to protect jobs and incomes for millions of workers and provide resources for critical public services like the NHS, because they have no idea of the hardship that many people are going through.
‘In some cases, public money will be required to support businesses. But it can’t then be wasted on huge payouts for executives and investors and assurances to this effect should be required first.’
DP World says P&O, which it bought last year for £322million and is based in Dover, will collapse without a £257million rescue package.
It wants £150million to be provided by the UK Government. This is despite DP World being more than 80 per cent-owned by the Dubai government, which will take a hefty portion of the company’s planned £267million dividend today, and reported profits of more than £1billion last year.
In addition to P&O, DP World also owns the Southampton and London Gateway ports, and dozens of other global terminals.
Bin Sulayem said P&O played a ‘vital role’ in the UK economy and warned that thousands of jobs depended on it.
He told the BBC: ‘The Government has been slow. We need to safeguard jobs. A lot of people’s lives depends on this company.’
He rejected suggestions DP World should postpone its dividend because it had ‘never taken a penny out’. ‘Any profits we have made we have reinvested in new vessels,’ he added.
‘DP World owns many businesses. You cannot just take money out of them to put into a company in another place – it doesn’t make sense.’
The controversy comes after other wealthy tycoons such as Sir Richard Branson were criticised for seeking government aid.
A government spokesman said: ‘We recognise how challenging this period is for the transport sector and encourage all firms to make use of the further changes to business support, helping make funds easier to access.
‘We’re committed to working with industry leaders, to offer the support they need and help provide certainty for workers.
‘We will continue to directly engage maritime companies and associations to tackle these challenges.’